Maintaining an outward image: a Korean immigrant's life with type 2 diabetes mellitus and hypertension

Qual Health Res. 2012 Jun;22(6):825-34. doi: 10.1177/1049732312438778. Epub 2012 Feb 29.


Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) and hypertension (HTN) disproportionately affect minority populations in the United States, including Korean American immigrants (KAI). We conducted qualitative interviews with middle-aged KAI in Maryland living with DM and HTN to examine the illness experience to inform future intervention strategies. Study results show that participants utilized strategies to maintain respect and Korean identity, including an image of being healthy and in control of their behavior in the public arena. These strategies included the lack of disclosure of their illness, even to family members, and avoiding outside assistance when engaging in problem solving. Maintaining an outward image of health was a common goal that affected the self-care of KAI in this study, a finding that might prove significant in the management of other chronic illnesses affecting this population. The study findings demonstrate the importance of in-depth understanding of specific populations when treating chronic illness, and caretakers' sensitivity to each population's unique cultural issues regarding identity, image, and disclosure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cultural Competency
  • Culture*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / ethnology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / psychology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Diet
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / ethnology*
  • Hypertension / psychology
  • Hypertension / therapy
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Republic of Korea / ethnology
  • Self Care
  • Social Identification
  • United States / epidemiology